"The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public, founded in 1873." It is best remembered for its opposition to literary works. Anthony Comstock was the founder of the organization and worked within it until his death in 1915. His successor John S. Sumner was known as the "Chief Smut-Eradicator" and Secretary for the Society. "For Sumner, any judge who erroneously ruled a book not obscene claiming it must be evaluated not by isolated passages but as a whole, or by the tolerances of the average adult for non-prurient sexual explicitness, was simply 'trying to explain away the appearance of admitted obscenity and filth.' Such rulings merely furthered the dark interests of 'a rather reprehensible type of author or publisher.' (Gertzman) Sumner had a way with his followers. Many of his workers were used as decoys to go into book shops and buy the immoral books in question. Once the purchase was made the decoy would signal to the police waiting around the corner only to have the bookseller arrested. Sumner was performing what he saw was his civic duty. (Gertzman) There was also suppression of any form of information about birth control getting into the hands of the women of that day. Margaret Sanger was opposed in 1916 for her role in information about birth control. Some of the literary works opposed included James Joyce's Ulysses because of a passage dealing with the main character masturbating. Theodore Dreiser's book The Genius was forced off the market. Comstock alerted the New York City police about the perceived obscenity and immorality of George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Some individuals were even driven to suicide after being brought to justice by this group, such as Ida Craddock, whom after be convicted of distributing various sexually explicit marriage manuals she had authored took her own life. "Through his various campaigns, Comstock destroyed 15 tons of book, 284,000 pounds of plates for printing 'objectionable' books, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures." (Wikipedia)
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